Huper: Thankful for Everything?

Word of the Week

April 13, 2024

Huper: Thankful for Everything?


Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Ephesians 5:20


“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Commenting on this familiar verse, the pastor explained, “We don’t have to be thankful for everything, but God calls us to be thankful in every situation.”

It’s a logical explanation.  War is evil.  Cancer is a tragedy.  Senseless violence is, well, senseless.  God hates evil, so we aren’t thankful for it.

Instead, we look for something in every situation for which we can thank God.  This isn’t easy, but there is always some evidence of God’s care even in the darkest moment.

The great Bible commentator Matthew Henry was once robbed on the street.  Looking back on the loss of his wallet, he commented

“Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.

There’s just one problem: Ephesians 5:20 seems to say that a Spirit-filled believer will always give thanks for all things.

Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father

Does this mean that God expects us to be grateful for drugs, drunkenness and debauchery?

When we are faced with a puzzling question, it never hurts to check the Greek.  Does this verse really mean what it seems to say?

The word for in this verse is the Greek huper.  Occurring 150 times, it is a common, versatile preposition.  Like most prepositions, it can have several shades of meaning, depending on the context.

It often means “for the sake of, for the benefit of.”  For example, Christ died for all (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Less frequently it can mean “because of, on account of.”

Several passages mention “suffering for Christ” (Acts 5:41; 9:16; 21:13; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 1:29; 2 Thessalonians 1:5).

Only one other verse mentions “giving thanks for” something.  In 1 Corinthians 10:30, Paul was discussing the ancient issue of eating meat obtained from a pagan temple.  He pointed out, “I give thanks to God for this food; so why should anyone criticize me?”

In summary, the Greek phrase in Ephesians 6:20 does indeed mean that we should be thankful for “all things.”  No matter what comes our way, we can look to God and say, “Thank you for it all.”

Therefore, the question remains: Am I supposed to be grateful for evil?

People have written entire books on this question, but let me suggest that the answer might lie in a closer look at “all things.”

As a kid, I watched my mother making a devil’s food cake.  I knew how good it would be and I loved chocolate.  I noticed the container of baking chocolate sitting on the counter and decided to stick my finger in for a quick taste.  Ugh!  It was more bitter than anything else I had ever tasted!

No one in their right mind would sit down for a bowl of baking chocolate.  It was nasty!  But you couldn’t make a devil’s food cake without it.  Only when you mixed it with the other ingredients and put it in the oven was it edible.  But when it was done, it was well worth it!

Similarly, life includes some things that can only be described as repulsive.  Taken in isolation, those things are bad.  But we never experience anything in isolation.  Pain comes as part of a larger “recipe.”  You can’t have the cake without the bitter chocolate, and God’s ultimate purpose for us sometimes requires bitter ingredients.

I don’t have to be excited about every single ingredient in God’s recipe, but I can be thankful that “all things” – the whole assortment of ingredients is part of a process that will produce the world’s greatest dessert.

Remember, Romans 8:28 says that God causes all things to work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.  I may not understand the purpose of each piece, but I can always be thankful that the Master Chef knows how to blend “all things” together perfectly!


Study Hint:

A word like huper is what grammarians call a “preposition.”  It is a little word that shows how a particular word or phrase is related to the rest of the sentence.  Word studies of prepositions can be tricky because they shift meanings so easily.  It all depends on what they connect.  Some prepositions also have different meanings that depend on the spelling of the word that follows them.  Bottom line:  Don’t think that we have given a complete explanation of huper in this short article; it’s just a meditation on one particular passage.


Coming Up

Income taxes are due!  And many of us find that we owe money to the IRS.  This might be the ideal time to consider our other debts.  Next week we will examine the Greek word for “owe” to discover what other debts we need to consider.

©Ezra Project 2024



2 Responses

  1. Thank you again for these snippets of Greek to help clarify and open up passages, words. So very helpful! This analogy fits so beautifully today in a world of suffering and unexplained pain. And me about to mix up a very chocolate-y cake for a wedding shower. 😊

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